3 Best Distressor VST Plugins You Should Know About 2022

2 Best Distressor VST Plugins You Should Know About | integraudio.com

Top 3 Distressor VST Plugins You Should Know About 2022

1. Empirical Labs Mike-E Comp By Softube (Analog Compressor, Saturator, Preamp)

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An all-in-one solution for the basic audio production needs.

Plugins that contain different effects and uses inside a single window are awesome and can be the perfect tool for most production styles. It’s nice to have all you’ll need in a single window, which can lead to significantly less CPU power consumption.

Empirical Labs Mike-E Comp was created in collaboration with Dave Derr to simulate the versatility behind the ELI distressor and provide meaningful colorations to your track

Empirical Labs Mike-E Comp By Softube - Top 20 Mixing Plugins For All Categories | integraudio.com

Key Features:

    • Preamp
      The “Preamp” section offers up to 18dB of gain boost, and it can be used to gain stage your track with the authentic character of a hardware unit. You can even disable the preamp distortion with the “Clean” option, while the “Bad!” indicator will force clipping whenever possible.
    • CompSat
      One of the main sections of the plugin is called “CompSat,” and is arguably the heart of Mike-E. It works the same way as a distressor, but with additions like a longer attack time and additional emphasis circuit. Of course, the “Drive” knob will add any distortion values promptly, with the nearby LEDs indicating the amount of saturation added to your signal.
    • Emphasis
      The “Emphasis” parameter is divided between three modes: “HF” emphasizes the high frequencies in the saturation circuit, “HF2” does the same but in the entire CompSat circuit, and LF enhances the lower frequencies in the compressor circuit. Switching between these profiles can make the plugin sound warmer and “creamier,” displaying a nice tape-like tone.
    • Extended features
      As with other Softube plugins, Empirical Labs Mike-E Comp also offers extended features. These can bring nice parameters to complement the already included ones, expanding its functionality and making the overall response of this effect to be much more modern and precise, just like plugins are expected to.
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This plugin is available for macOS 10.13 to 12 (64-bit only) and Windows 10 or higher (64-bit only). It runs in VST, VST3, and AU plugin formats.


Softube always brings exciting software that will certainly improve or add character to your tracks. And besides being a recreation of studio equipment, Empirical Labs Mike-E Comp is a nice plugin to have constantly around.

The saturation quality is superb, with subtle nuances that only the genuine or any tube unit could deliver. The different segments are interlinked and behave well if added jointly, making this a versatile and consistent audio-shaping tool.

2. UAD Empirical Labs EL8 Distressor Compressor (Can behave as VCA, Opto & FET Compressor)

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Top 7 Compressor Plugins For Smooth Vocals | integraudio.com
The EL8 Distressor competes on the market against Slate Digital’s breathtakingly realistic FG-Stress and Empirical Labs’ own supercharged emulation, the Arousor.

The 1U rack-mount front panel of the genuine Distressor is fully redesigned by the Arousor to accommodate all of its new functions, and it is comfortably crammed into its own “lunchbox” style, but the Distressor slices it in half and layers the original appearance across two levels. The right end is located in the bottom half and has input, output, attack, and release settings, as well as a wet/dry mix knob for parallel compression, which is not a hardware feature.

The “left” settings in the image above allow you to choose the ratio, sidechain detector mode, and audio distortion and filtering method. The spectrum of measuring LEDs is also available, including Gain Reduction, 1% THD, and Redline. It perfectly resembles a folded replica of the original.

Thousands of engineers like Distressor for vocals since vocals are actually a relatively simple source to compress. Since the Distressor’s highest ratios have knees, it is difficult to go excessive and sound strange. My preferred ratios are 4:1 and 6:1, which have a wide knee, but over 8dB of compression, it really starts to grasp and keep a vocal in place. The initial 6dB of compression is unnoticeable because of the Distressor’s knee and craft assault.

Key Features:

  • Ratio
    The incredible compression variations and Nuke, which each give different tones and curves, are essential to the Distressor. Use the 1:1 ratio to add low-order musical harmonics while gradually warming up synthesizers or strings without compression. Conversely, the Nuke limiter setting is renowned for electrifying an entire mix or adding explosive energy to room mics.
  • Brit Mode
    So it’s odd that the “Brit” mode of the EL8X hardware variant isn’t included either. Its absence here is regrettable because the Urei 1176’s all ratio dials are maximized in mode 1, one of the numerous antique compressors that influenced the Distressor’s design and contributed punch and ferocity.
  • Response
    The EL8 Distressor successfully reproduces that recognizable sound and responsiveness, from the silky lower ratios to the adaptable mids to the devastating Opto and Nuke, as one might anticipate given Derr’s unrestrained acclaim. Unquestionably, Universal Audio has effectively captured every aspect of the hardware, even the behaviour of the mono Linked dead patch.
  • Distorsion Modes
    With a wide range of compression colourations available in Distressor’s flagship Dist 2 and Dist 3 modes, you may shape sources with even or odd harmonic distortion. With the help of low-pass filtering and distortion settings, you may concentrate Distressor textures in various ways, from subtle thickening to polished tape to totally saturated.
  • Side Chain Controls
    You may effortlessly focus your dynamics using Distressor’s sidechain control. Unwanted pumping and breathing from a high-pass filter are ideal for drum bus processing. Band Emphasis can soften harsh voices, pinpoint strong peaks in the instrument’s “power zone,” or combine the two.
    For flexible imaging, Distressor can also be used on linked or disconnected buses. Exclusive plugin features like Dry/Wet Mix offer simple parallel compression across an instrument group or mix bus. Finally, you may tune the Distressor’s overall degree of operation on your playback system using the Headroom control.
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This plugin is available for Windows 10 or higher and macOS 10.13.6 or higher, both 64-bit only. It comes in VST 2/3AU, and AAX formats.


How can the unfortunate out-of-the-box producer pick amongst the three genuinely great Distressor plugins that are now readily available? First, we can categorically assert that it is the one to choose if achieving 100% faultless emulation is your top priority—providing that you have the required DSP hardware with you, if not, you’ll need to add something on top of the plugin’s cost.

Runs in Slate Digital’s Virtual Mix Rack plugin is a less expensive but almost identical option for those who like to keep things local. Finally, Arousor is currently a bit of a mystery. Despite the amazing Attack Modifier and Variable Clipping that it adds to the Distressor core, it seems less like hardware due to these features.

3. Empirical Labs Arousor

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Arousor by Eplirical labs is a knee compressor plugin. 

Imagine a compressor with a variable knee parameter that does butter-smooth ducking of any sounds beyond the threshold. That is exactly what Arousor allows you to do. In addition, you can add warm saturation effects and do internal sidechaining.

The plugin has a  unique workflow and an easy-to-use interface, and it’s great for glue compression, drum bus processing, parallel processing, master bus compression, and more. 

Key Features:

  • Rivet Mode
    The compressor is modeled after Distressor, and like Distressor has a Nuke ratio, Arousor has a Rivet Mode by which the steepness of the compressor increases. Otherwise, the plugin allows you to select a ratio up to 20:1.
  • Attack Modification
    The plugin allows you to set the compression envelope’s attack curve, so the compressor’s slope adjusts accordingly as and when the compressor acts. You can allow better transients to pass through the compressor by using this knob and accordingly shape your drums, bass, synths, etc.
  • Detector sidechain
    You can select a frequency range you want the compressor to act, and the compressor will be triggered only at that point. You can select the range using a high pass filter and a parametric sidechain equalizer. 


The plugin is available in AU, VST, and AAX plugin versions


The plugin is unique and has a good flavor to it. In addition, you can add vintage-style harmonic distortion by using its inbuilt saturation. The plugin allows you to turn on dual opto modes and add warm and classic opto flavor to your sound. The compressor is great for mix bus processing and drums processing. 

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